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Tipster, DNA lead to arrest in 2003 murder

TWC News

Federal and local authorities on Wednesday released more information about the man charged with the robbery and homicide at a Xerox federal credit union outside Rochester more than a decade ago.

The man charged is 56-year-old Richard Wilbern, a former Xerox employee who lived in Fairport at the time of the robbery. He is accused of shooting and killing Raymond Batzel of Livingston County and wounding another customer in the credit union, Joseph Doud of Rochester, in August 2003.

Officials revealed that they were led to Wilbern after a tipster said they had worked with Wilbern at Xerox before he was fired. In August 2000, Wilbern filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination, which was dismissed in 2002, and again in 2005 when it was appealed.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam Cohen says authorities got DNA evidence from an umbrella that Wilbern left behind at the time of the robbery. Cohen says there were three things that helped solve this case.

“First, an incredibly brave and remarkable tipster, who provided the name that we needed to press this case forward.  Second, advances in science and technology, which have proven significant in so many other cases, and last some very bright, very dedicated agents, analyst and investigators.”

Credit Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News
Rowena Bennett (center), mother of Raymond Batzel, says her late son was the glue that held the family together.

Cohen says authorities were able to get a sample of DNA from Wilbern when he stopped by the FBI office earlier this month to discuss a complaint he made about a real estate scam. He licked an envelope and the FBI got DNA from that to match against the umbrella. When Wilbern returned to the FBI office on Tuesday to follow up, he was then arrested.

Batzel’s 89-year-old mother, Rowena Bennett, thanked investigators and the public for their work in solving the case. Though she is relieved an arrest was made, she says the effects of the tragic ordeal remain.

“There’s never closure. This goes on and on. If we take a piece of your heart and we take it out and you try to go on with your life, day after day, you find that your heart didn’t heal up,” says Bennett.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul says if convicted, Wilbern could get up to life in prison, or potentially, a federal death sentence if the Attorney General pushed forward for that punishment and if a jury voted in favor of that penalty.

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer in March 2015. The right mix of determination and opportunity catapulted Sasha-Ann into her dream career as a journalist nearly a decade ago. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Sasha-Ann comes to Rochester after spending her formative years growing up in Toronto, Canada. She studied broadcasting at Ryerson University, where she received a Bachelor of Journalism. Sasha-Ann earned her first news gig as a chase producer at CityTV, while still a college freshman. She subsequently took on various roles in other Toronto newsrooms as a videographer, host, and producer, and was part of the award-winning Global TV news team. Sasha-Ann has covered and produced stories in the Canadian national spotlight, including Occupy Toronto, the Eaton Centre mall shooting, the Toronto Argos CFL championship win, and the Mayor Rob Ford crack scandal. Sasha-Ann is fun-loving and sassy. She is also passionate about education issues. When she's not on the air, Sasha-Ann spends her time with family and exploring new recipes in the kitchen.
Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
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